Yahoo Aims to Connect Internet and TV

For a long time people have been talking about marrying internet content with TV content, but trying to do so has vexed many companies in the past (remember WebTV?). Yahoo has a new approach: a set of widgets called Yahoo ConnectedTV. I took a good look at the service at the Digital Experience pre-CES kickoff event, and I was impressed.

According to one of the Yahoo engineers (who have been working on the project for the past three years), Yahoo ConnectedTV is a package of widgets specially designed for a new wave of "connected HDTVs" that will begin hitting the market (starting with Samsung) in the second quarter of 2009.

Many companies are using this year's CES to unveil connected TVs, which offer some sort of Internet or network connection. LG, for example, announced a similar technology this week that will allow users to view Netflix internet video on their TVs, no PC required.

With your TV wired directly to the Internet, you go to a Yahoo site and install the widget of your choice on the Linux operating system working inside your TV. No PC, no keyboard, no mouse needed. The widget installs on your TV and begins introducing internet content as a sort of overlay on top of your regularly scheduled programming.

For instance, you might click a widget for eBay or Flickr from your widgets "dock" at the bottom of your TV screen, so you can shop or view photos while watching TV. But the most interesting widgets will be the ones that work in harmony with the shows. For instance, you might hit your Twitter widget, and begin "tweeting" about the show you're watching in real time. Another widget could send you to a blog containing the latest gossip about whatever celeb happens to be on the screen. A YouTube or Hulu widget might send you to an Internet video of an episode that you missed.

The widgets themselves will be created by the third parties (like YouTube or Twitter or Disney) using a development kit provided by Yahoo. Yahoo hopes to make its money in advertising and profit-sharing agreements with those third parties.

But HDTV manufacturers are going to have to step up the functionality of their remotes to better accommodate the vast array of content on the Internet. We are talking about a whole new type of remote control here that uses cell-phone style touch screens or Blackberry-style rollerball pointers. If the TV makers don't get these new remotes right, some other third party like Logitech or Acoustic Research will have to step in.

The new Yahoo ConnectedTV widgets will be downloadable for free when the first connected TVs hit the market.

For all the latest CES news, check out our complete coverage of CES 2009.

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